Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘technology’

26 APRIL, 2011

The Ragged Edge of Silence: The Art of Listening

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What 17 years of silence have to do with National Geographic and your ringtone.

In 1971, after the devastating 800,000-gallon oil spill in the San Francisco Bay, John Francis, then a young man, pledged to never ride a motorized vehicle again. Two years later, he added voluntary silence to his vow, spending 17 years in silence as he walked the world and became known as The Planetwalker. The first words that he spoke again were in Washington, D.C., on the 20th anniversary of Earth Day. In 2009, Francis, by then a National Geographic fellow with a Ph.D, told his remarkable story in the candid and deeply inspirational Planetwalker: 22 Years of Walking. 17 Years of Silence.

This year, Dr. Francis is back with the highly anticipated and most excellent follow-up, The Ragged Edge of Silence: Finding Peace in a Noisy World — a powerful and poetic exploration of the beauty of our world and our place in it, and a timely antidote to our increasingly networked, ping-scored existence.

The Ragged Edge of Silence explores the art of listening through a beautiful collage of personal accounts, interviews, science, storytelling, and a fascinating historical perspective on the role of silence across Hindu, Buddhist and Native American cultures. Francis transcends the purely philosophical to offer practical ways of building constructive silence into our everyday routines as micro-oases of self-discovery amidst our stimulus-overloaded lives.

The Ragged Edge of Silence digs deeply into the phenomenology of silence and the practice of listening. As in Planetwalker, I followed a methodology that recognizes the importance of personal documents, explanations, and interpretation of silence. This story, then, is my personal account and interpretation of silence as I experienced it.” ~ John Francis

For a moving glimpse of Francis’ unusual story, don’t miss his excellent 2008 TED talk:

Part adventure story, part philosophical reflection, part heartfelt memoir, The Ragged Edge of Silence is a pure joy to read, lacking the self-righteous preachiness this line of thinking often festers into and instead extending a humble but powerful invitation to reexamine your worldview.

Thanks, Jim

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18 APRIL, 2011

NASA + William Shatner: Space Shuttle’s Legacy

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This month, NASA announced that after 30 years of spaceflight and over 130 missions, its Space Shuttle Program fleet will be retiring to an earthly resting place. To commemorate the fleet’s remarkable legacy, NASA produced this fantastic short documentary, narrated by none other than William Shatner:

An idea born in unsettled times becomes a feat of engineering excellence. The most complex machine ever built to bring humans to and from space and eventually construct the next stop on the road to space exploration.”

The film comes mere days after public outrage over proposed NASA budget cuts, along with NASA’s own appeals, finally appeared to have moved Congress to approve a healthier funding grant of $18.5 billion. Meanwhile, ordinary NASA fans continue to churn out extraordinary tributes that attempt to bridge the frustrating gap between NASA’s deeply inspirational work and the toothless official communication about it.

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14 APRIL, 2011

IOU Project: Social Technology Meets Artisanal Tradition

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“Transparency.” “Accountability.” “Sustainability.” “Authenticity.” In recent years, these moral ideas have been reduced to fluff-phrases empty of meaning, sprinkled atop just about every Fortune 500 corporate mission statement like some sort of odor-masking miracle candy on a sundae of bollocks. But what if they were to be taken in untainted hands, looked at with new eyes, resurrected with new spirit?

That’s what IOU Project is out to do. They produce handmade apparel from fabrics hand-woven in India. Because each textile is unique, you can trace the production process of your particular garment right back to the exact weaver who hand-wove the fabric using the IOU mobile app. The project is part storytelling experiment, part ecommerce venture, part social meeting place for a community that shares these values of authenticity and purpose, bridging centuries-old artisanal traditions with the promise of modern social technology.

In the rush to automate the world, artisans are being replaced with machines.”

Besides having what’s easily the most thoughtful visual identity we’ve seen in a while, IOU also features a number of beautifully filmed, warmly candid videos that capture the people and process behind the project.

IOU Project is still in stealth mode, but you can sign up for a heads-up about the official launch on the site, or follow them on Facebook and Twitter for updates.

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